Once again, our ‘expert’ panel here at Rouleur Towers pit their wits and intimate knowledge of the racing scene against Cycling Mole, our harshest critic and king of the tipster scene, to see who will be crowned King of Yorkshire.
Hours of painstaking research will go into our World Championships picks, whilst stroking our luxuriant hipster beards over a mug of single origin coffee, listening to ambient techno. [Did Moley write this? – Ed]
Can any of us outfox the crafty Mole? Or will he rip us a new one, as per usual? Read on…
Men’s Elite road race: Leeds – Harrogate, 280km
Ben: Matteo Trentin (Italy)
I’ve had a soft spot for Trentin ever since I handed him a Combativity Cheese (Google it – actually, it’s probably not worth it) in Blythe after a stage of the Tour of Britain. The wily and versatile Italian will be unfancied amongst the superstars, but he likes racing in this country and, unrelatedly, he also likes cheese.
Andy: Philippe Gilbert (Belgium)
Another year, another veteran winner. The wily old dog has the form, the experience, the staying power and will be able to command a star-studded Belgian squad. A last hurrah for Philippe Gilbert.
Miles: Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands)
Having proved himself on UK roads so very recently, it’s impossible look past Mathieu Van De Poel. I can see that first flying stage win on the Tour of Britain being replicated on the Harrogate finish.
Ian: Michael Matthews (Australia)
Really can’t see a young ‘un taking this – too far, too hard, too wet. Not name dropping (much) but Johan Museeuw told me yesterday he reckoned the Belgians were all too self-interested to work together, and I’m inclined to agree. The Aussies are all in for Matthews, however. He has the pedigree, the form and the class. But can he surf in the predicted biblical conditions?
Nick: Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium)
The conditions and the length favour experience and Belgianness. That takes all but two off the table. The need to not be knackered from the Vuelta has, for me, narrowed the options down to one. GVA has always seemed so World Champion-esque to me that I frequently forget that he hasn’t actually won the rainbows already. Time to put that right.
Cycling Mole’s Verdict
The big one, the men’s road race. We have a very worrying weather forecast; the local area even has a weather warning for rain. The route isn’t the hardest in the world, but you try it after riding for 7 hours in the pouring rain. The last time the heavens opened in the road race was back in Italy, when Rui Costa took the win. Some riders can handle these conditions much better than others, but make no mistake, it significantly increases the difficulty of the race. This will be an elimination race, with under 40 finishers.
Cheesy Ben is going Italian with Matteo Trentin, a solid pick, but an unlikely winner. Andy and Nick are picking the Belgians, no wonder, their squad is the strongest here. Both Van Avermaet and Gilbert are among the favourites to win the rainbow jersey, but I do wonder how on earth they’ll approach the race, as they seem to have too many leaders and not enough workers.
Ian is going with Bling Matthews, a man who tucks his ears under his cap. I simply refuse to accept a man who does this as the cycling world champion, no way José! What surprises me is that only Miles has picked MvdP. With so much talk of him over the last few months, maybe the Rouleur team have been sleeping or too busy wondering if they are young enough to get away with a Stone Island jumper. Miles hasn’t been very good at the game, but maybe he’s saved the best for last.
Verdict – it seems that everyone has forgotten a certain rider. You know the guy, he has 3 rainbow jerseys, 7 green jerseys and 12 stage wins in the Tour de France. I’m struggling to recall his name, just bear with me… Peter Sagan! Write him off at your peril, no doubt he’s fed up wearing his team kit.
P.S In case you were wondering, all the Rouleur guys are too old to get away with a Stone Island jumper.